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Kentucky Football: How F/+ Views UK vs. Mizzou

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

FEI is the Fremeau Efficiency Index, created by Brian Fremeau. Fremeau is an author at Football Outsiders, ESPN and BCFToys. FEI is an advanced statistical measure for college football that tracks drive efficiency instead of per-play success.

S+P is created by Bill Connelly. Connelly is an author at SBNation, RockMNation, Football Study Hall and Football Outsiders. S+P is an advanced statistical measure which combines success rate, explosiveness per play and opponent adjustments.

The combination of these two ranking systems provides the F/+ ranking.

This is how Fremeau and Connelly describe their rankings:

The Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI) considers each of the nearly 20,000 possessions every season in major college football. All drives are filtered to eliminate first-half clock-kills and end-of-game garbage drives and scores. A scoring rate analysis of the remaining possessions then determines the baseline possession expectations against which each team is measured. A team is rewarded for playing well against good teams - win or lose; and is punished more severely for playing poorly against bad teams than it is rewarded for playing well against bad teams.

The S&P+ Ratings are a college football ratings system derived from both play-by-play and drive data from all 800+ of a season's FBS college football games (and 140,000+ plays). There are four key components to the S&P+

If interested, here is a glossary that might be helpful. Lastly, keep in mind that the F/+ percentage ratings measure every team against a perfectly average team. So, if the F/+ rating of a team is 0% that team is considered perfectly average by this rating system.

How F/+ and S&P+ view the matchup:

OVERALL

When UK Has the ball...

When Mizzou has the ball...



Category

UK

Mizzou

UK Off.

Mizz Def.

UK Def.

Mizz Off.


F/+ Rk (Overall)

91 (-10.9%)

11 (26.9%)




F/+ Rk (Off.)

46 (3.7%)

18 (16.8%)


F/+ Rk (Def)

115 (-14.9%)

9 (16.8%)




F/+ Rk (Spec Teams)

56 (0.3%)

94 (-1.5%)




S&P+ Rk (Overall)

56 (204.8)

13 (250)

50 (105.3)

14 (128.4)

83 (98.7)

14 (121.6)


Rushing S&P+ Rk

18 (124.8)

20 (120.8)

97 (89.7)

20 (122.4)


Passing S&P+ Rk

58 (100.9)

19 (123.0)

60 (101.1)

22 (121.9)


The chart reiterates that Mizzou is a better team than UK - vastly so in terms of defense where Mizzou is ranked 9th while UK is ranked 115th. The margin is thinner regarding offense where UK is ranked 46th while Mizzou is 18th, but that is still a sizeable difference. Encouragingly, UK does have the edge on special teams where it ranks 56th and Mizzou is ranked 94th. Yet, when those rankings are combined you see Mizzou ranked 11th overall while UK is ranked 91st.

Burrowing deeper into the numbers gives more specifics on UK's opponent. The S&P+ rankings show Mizzou's offense has real balance ranking 20th in Rushing S&P+ and 22nd in Passing S&P+. Mizzou has very dangerous receivers, strong quarterback play, and a solid running back by committee set-up. Coach Stoops spoke this week that the game tape clearly showed Mizzou's offense is balanced, and these numbers seem to agree. Balanced offenses are very hard for a defense to prepare for, and UK's defense needs all the help it can get. To give an example of why balanced offenses are better notice that UofL's S&P+ overall offense ranking is 12thh which is one rank higher than Mizzou's overall. UK held UofL to 27 points; however, UofL's Rush S&P+ of 58th allowed UK to focus more on UofL's passing attack. Against Mizzou, UK won't have the luxury of overcompensating against a single facet of their offense.

There won't be much quarter given when UK has the ball either. Mizzou's overall S&P+ defense, led by sack artist Mike Sam, is ranked 14th while UK's offense is 50th. Mizzou is currently tied for 12th in the nation for team pass sacks. UK's offensive line has had trouble stopping the pass rush this year, so a running back will likely be forced to remain in the backfield on passing situations to improve pass-blocking. Mizzou's passing defense is superior to UK's passing offense and has forced a staggering 17 interceptions this season good for 2nd in the nation. The loss of starting wide receivers Alexander Montgomery and Ryan Timmons will impede UK's pass offense further. UK's running game does seem evenly matched with Mizzou's rushing defense but it doesn't seem like a wide enough gap to give UK an edge and make up ground loss elsewhere.

Comparing Track Records

UK's Performances

Opponent

Opp. Off. S&P+

Opp. Def. S&P+

Outcome

Florida

86 (90.9)

9 (139.6)

7-24 (L)

USC

21 (117.5)

21 (123.9)

28-35 (L)

MSU

56 (103.2)

28 (117.3)

22-28 (L)

Mizzou's Performance

Opponent

Opp. Off. S&P+

Opp. Def. S&P+

Outcome

Florida

86 (90.9)

9 (139.6)

36-17 (W)

USC

21 (117.5)

21 (123.9)

24-27 (L)

Tennessee

64 (99.1)

39 (112.4)

31-3 (W)

The above charts illustrate the outcomes of previous matchups for UK and Mizzou while taking into account current S&P+ rankings. Above are the results of the common opponents along with the result of each team's last game against a SEC opponent. Mizzou has the highest offense S&P+ that UK has faced so far this year with the exception of Alabama (ranked 8th). USC is the next closest ranked 21st, and they scored 35 points on UK while ‘Bama scored 48. Meanwhile, Mizzou's S&P+ defense is ranked 14th which is behind UK's previous opponents of ‘Bama (4th) and Florida (9th). UK's S&P+ offense is ranked 50th which is higher than common opponent Florida who scored 17 against Missouri. Factoring in the track records it seems Mizzou will score 35-45 points, and UK will probably score 14-24 points with this game at home.

TL;DR

The current Vegas line of Mizzou as -14.5 may be too low, in my opinion. Mizzou boasts a balanced offense against a subpar UK defense, according to F/+. UK is clearly outmatched in this phase of the game. In order for UK to keep the game close the team will have to significantly limit total possessions by sustaining long offensive drives. This means UK will have to maximize its slight edge in Rushing S&P+ and have high play efficiency on 1st and 2nd downs. UK has to avoid 3rd and medium or long situations as much as possible, not only because they are poor at converting 3rd downs this season, but because Mizzou's pass-rushers and secondary have proven their brutality against offenses in those circumstances. UK also can't commit turnovers against a defense that creates them at a stellar pace.

Online betting has UK as a +450 underdog meaning UK has an 18% equivalent win percentage after converting the money line. Vegas believes UK has a puncher's chance and I'll take it. Not only because I'm making the trip to Lexington for the game and so am forced to regardless, but because a 2-6 UK team typically has worse odds against a Top 10 team.

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